Nina has a lot of fun with her best friend, Choco, and is sad when he moves to the other side of the world (from her finger on the globe, it’s one of the countries south of Mexico). He’s not much good at writing letters, so she is pleased to receive an envelope from him, but it only contains 5 brown beans. She carries them around with her and thinks about how much she misses him. (There is an evil looking cat with her, scavenging and trying to catch a bird). Then she is distracted by the arrival of chefs Raymond and Nigella (looking nothing like the people that adult readers might be thinking of) for a cooking competition, and we follow their progress as they aim to make something new. Asked to make something big and round, they come up with what turns out to be a ‘pancake’ and a ‘pizza’. For something long and thin, they make ‘chips’, and ‘spaghetti’, but the judges are finding it very difficult to decide on the best food. Up in a tree watching all this, Nina crumbles her beans into powder and tastes the result – delicious! She rushes home and concocts something to present to the judges. Although Nigella says it looks like poo, they taste it, and feel like children again – Nina is the winner. But what does she call it? A judge suggests Ninalate, but Nina says it should be named after her friend who sent her the beans- Chocolate!
Hans Jorgen Sandnes originally painted the illustrations with diluted chocolate, and the Notes at the end tell us that these are very carefully stored in a secret location. They go on to explain the real story of chocolate, give some fascinating facts and then a recipe for Chocolate Brownies. The illustrations naturally are mostly in shades of brown, with some red and green, and they work very well in this amusing story. They are cartoons with a lot of fun in facial expressions (including the evil cat!) and lots of detail to look at. Designed for children who have just learned to read, the pictures help with deciphering the words, and the letters are formed without any ornamentation. It’s a good story, and this will be fun to read and look at.